Fake News is taking the world by storm. President Donald Trump uses the term to denounce unfavourable news, such as the size of the crowd at his inauguration, while President Vladimir Putin, allegedly, used it to influence the outcome of the US election.
In Afghanistan we prefered to use the term First to the Truth, but it amounted to the same thing:
As with all major incidents the J9 Cell was responsible for communicating the ISAF version of events to the local population. I was required to produce a statement which confirmed that an ISAF soldier had been killed and provide a sanitised outline of the events leading up to Michael’s death. Once approved this would be translated into Pashtu and transmitted across the district in regular news bulletins via the MOB Price RIAB, radio‑in‑a‑box.
Great importance was placed on the speed of reporting in order to be the first to fill the information vacuum following an incident. This was referred to as being first to the truth, FTTT, or in the lexicon of the phonetic alphabet Foxtrot Triple Tango.
It wasn’t always entirely clear to me which was the priority, being truthful or being first.
In the relentless quest for good news and the blind insistence that everything was going swimmingly well, even when this was quite obviously not the case, it seemed to me that the truth was not always the overriding consideration.
As long ago as 1758 Samuel Johnson observed: ‘Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages. Little had changed, it seemed, in the intervening 250 years.’
SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is the unauthorised, unvarnished and irreverent story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan where the locals haven’t forgiven the British for the occupation of 1842 or for the Russian Invasion of 1979. Of course, all infidels look the same so you can’t really tell them apart.
‘The best book by a soldier concerning the Afghan War that I have read’
Frank Ledwidge, bestselling author of Losing Small Wars and Investment in Blood
‘SPIN ZHIRA vividly conveys the disjointed essence of modern warfare and the impossibility of balancing the adrenaline of combat with ‘normal’ life. This book brims with authenticity and dark humour.’
Patrick Hennessey, bestselling author of The Junior Officers’ Reading Club and Kandak
‘If you want to read about political and military success in Afghanistan, this book isn’t for you. If you want a fresh perspective from someone who is not a career officer and who is brave enough to bare his soul, then SPIN ZHIRA is a must read.’
Lt Col Richard Dorney, bestselling author of The Killing Zoneand An Active Service
SOLDIER The official magazine of the British Army
‘A journey of love, service and adventure. Excellent.’